Saturday, April 22, 2017

Why The Fine Arts Are Important to Your Child's Education

The greatest tool you can use to help your children grow is something that doesn’t appear on any standardized test. It’s creativity, and it’s something we as humans are born with. Creativity affects the way we learn and grow; it can be applied to any subject at will and teaches us that even within rigid structures there is a freedom of movement to make something new.

How do I know this? Show a child a painting and ask them to tell you what it is about. No two kids will have the exact same reaction and they will talk to you about what they see. You may be surprised at their interpretation because children are not bound by adult knowledge of the world. Picasso once said "It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child."

Take your children to see a play and ask them what they liked. Processing visual cues and interpreting vocals train our brains to pick up on nuances about relationships, music, and emotion. Have a child listen to music or play an instrument and they will hear things we never even thought were possible.

New brain research shows that not only does music improve skills in math and reading, but also it promotes creativity, social development, personality adjustment, and self worth. Our interpretation, as individuals with independent creative thought, can be as varied as the snowflake patterns that fall from the sky and as vast as the molecules within and around us.

I’ve watched this in my own children when they bring home artwork from school. I have a pile in my office of their different stages of life; from scribbles to actual people, their perception of the world is shaped by what they see, hear, smell, and touch.  Walk down the hallway of an elementary school and you’ll see their personalities in their artwork bursting with individuality.

Teachers use creativity in their classrooms on a daily basis. They create lessons centered on an individual’s thought or perception of a concept. Students demonstrate this in projects and performances, critiques and discussion.  We know for a fact that promoting the arts in education helps students succeed in other subjects. In fact, students who study art are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement and three times more likely to be awarded for school attendance.

So we know that the arts are important but what is the first thing government tries to do when there is a budgeting issue? Cut programs for the arts. President Trump took funding from the National Endowment of the Arts so that he could buy bigger bombs and build walls. It seems counter-intuitive doesn’t it? They want to make America great again but in the process eliminate these programs from our children’s lives.They see self-expression as an unwanted attribute and they fail to see the connection between creativity and success.

Students in high school see the value in science, math, and English so much so that they believe doubling up on these subjects will make them better students. Standardized tests only measure a student's ability to complete these tasks with a certain level of aptitude. But ask any employer what they are looking for in an employee and attention to detail and an ability to work outside of the box are must haves.

Let's consider the funds that the government sets aside for the arts to determine their worth. Federal funding for the arts and humanities rolls in around $250 million a year, while the National Science Foundation is funded around the $5 billion mark. So while people understand the need for fine art education, they don’t invest in it nearly as much despite knowing the benefits.

How do we combat this violation of our need to be creative? Get our children involved in as many fine art education programs as possible. Encourage them to take an art, music, or theater class despite their perceptions of their strengths or weaknesses. Everyone is creative in their own way and kids need that outlet in order to grow.

Visual art helps develop eye-hand coordination and because projects are mostly log term, they learn how to develop something to completion and tackle how to meet problems head on by thinking outside of the box and solving complex issues.

Music teaches them focus and concentration. As with any performance, repetition and practice until a song is mastered teaches children self-discipline and promotes a passion for something people use in their daily lives.

Theater teaches social skills and interpersonal communication. Interacting with a cast and creating everything from backdrops to props to costumes means they are building an attention to detail to make their craft as realistic as possible.

Dance teaches an awareness of their body and the expression that flows through it. Dance can be interpretive or choreographed and provides opportunities for a declaration of feelings through movement when being static just isn't your strong suit.

Theater, movies, and the culture around fine arts permeate everything in our culture that we value. Actors and actresses, artists and musicians claim high praise in our hearts and minds. Music, art, dance, and theater represent our past, present, and future; they remind us of moments in our lives and activate our memories.

So how do we encourage our children to follow the creative path? We become their agents, their coaches, their mentors and their muses. No uttered word should be ignored. No sour note left unheard. No scribble is insignificant. For a child, exploration through the fine arts will open doors that may have been previously shut or most likely unseen. We owe it to our children to keep the arts alive.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Unlock a Child's Potential with iD Tech Summer Camps

Remember the elation you felt as a child when the final seconds to summer break started and all the you time started? I spent many summers milling about my neighborhood riding my bike, throwing a ball against the garage, and doing all the things kids do when there isn't a rigid structure. To be honest, a lot of that time was not spent constructively. We used to look at summer as a time to unwind, to throw caution to the wind and forget our worries for three months sans deadlines and homework. 

But the summer can be much more than that. It can be a bridge to learning something new or trying out a skill you wish to develop before crossing the bridge into your next grade level.  Among those moments of downtime, my mom invested in my interests and ultimately helped to shape my future by signing me up for a summer art camp.

While my friends were whiling away the hours kicking a soccer ball around or shooting hoops, I reported to a well lit elementary school art classroom devoid of the bustling masses. We gathered in the art room where the afternoon summer sun streamed in to illuminate my paper like a golden papyrus. It was here that I practiced painting and drawing to my heart's content against an easel caked in paint, like graffiti of past artists who had been there before me . 

I remember it being quiet and peaceful but also incredibly challenging in that this was the first time I got to tell the teacher what I wanted to create. I wasn't doing an assignment that twenty other students were making in an art factory but applying what I knew and liked in a creative endeavor of my own, one on one with a real artist. That summer really shaped me into considering that art for me could be more than just a creative outlet but a job I would enjoy.

Yes, the summer can be a chance for our children to express their individuality and creativity. It can be a chance to delve into the things that they feel defines them as a person. If your kids are into technology like mine are, there are opportunities in the summer to learn skills that children of the future should know. The trick is, finding something that doesn't have them staring at a screen all summer playing video games. What if you could instead channel that interest and give them the opportunity to make an app or video game of their own design?  

Enter iD Tech Camp, a summer technology camp for kids ages 6-18 with 180 locations across the US including camps right here in Pennsylvania which include Villanova, WCU, and UPenn campuses.  At iD Tech, they offer day and overnight summer camps for aspiring programmers, app developers, video game designers, engineers, filmmakers, photographers, and more. iD Tech Camp gives our children a chance to learn the skills they will need to have to progress advancements in technology for the next generation of learners.

iD Tech has specific programs for girls, teens, tweens, and young learners. Courses are led by tech-savvy, adult-only staff in a fun, energetic and experiential environments. In addition to providing entertaining and age-appropriate activities, their STEM summer camps are loaded with original, real-world curriculum and professional software. 

Popular classes include Programming and App Development, Robotics Engineering, Game Design and Game Development, Web Design/Photography, Film/Video, and 3D Modeling/3D Printing. If you have a child who endlessly talks about Minecraft, you can get them to apply all their research to the creation of their own map in the Brick Busters: Minecraft Game Design class or have them take a Web Design and Photography class so they can build an online portfolio of their work. 

Worried if your child is getting the most out of their summer? With personalized, hands-on instruction for all skill levels and small class sizes of just eight students per instructor, ID Tech Camps anticipate that their students will become the world’s next creators of innovative technology. 

If you'd like to unlock the potential in your STEM student, you can register for a week of summer camp and use this code DADNCHARGE17 to receive $75 off your registration. Sign up now as spots are quickly filling up and turn this summer into an unforgettable experience with iD Tech Summer Camps. 

This post was sponsored by iD Tech Summer Camp and I received compensation for this post. All opinions expressed are solely my own. 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Discovering Their Words and Other Things

From the first audible cry to the cooing sounds of a content baby, our words have been forming since before our birth. Before we can communicate, we rely on sounds to let others know that we are distressed, hungry, or have desires we can’t fulfill. The way we respond to those cries for help, usually with soothing words of affirmation lets a child know that we are there.

You learn, as parents, to recognize your child’s patterns. Before long, you are able to tell a hungry cry from a distressed cry and “a diaper leaked in my bed” cry from an “I’m not feeling well” cry. Their nuances become clear because we are listening to them and that’s how we all learn.

What are we without our words? You’ll hear parents say to children who have trouble communicating that they must “use their words” to express why they are pointing to something and grunting excitedly. Effective communication begins with the ability to not only listen but repeat what you hear. The first time they latch onto a concept or recognize a word will result in eruption of recognition when they utter their first word.

From there, it spirals into something magical. Kids who listen to words and repeat them learn how to talk because of repeated patterns. So, we do that in the best way possible, we read to them. We read the same stories over and over ad nauseam until they know them by heart. But it’s that next step that excites me as a parent when they leap from a listener and repeater to an independent reader. The dawning of a child’s comprehension is an exciting time as a parent.

As my six year old daughter starts to recognize sight words, I watch her finger move across the page with awareness. Her eyes concentrate on the curves and line that form letters, her lips purse to mimic every sound. She is putting things together, she’s exploring language, and she is discovering how words go together to make sentences.

Now, there are some drawbacks to this process like the pointing out of the speed limit every time they see a sign or when your budding reader backseat driver lets you know that the last sign you passed said “STOP” even though you didn’t. But becoming an independent reader opens up the world to a child who has just been a casual observer until now.

My daughter is starting to put sentences together and formulating her own opinions about the things she experiences. I’ve begun to see the things that she gravitates towards and likes being reflected in what she likes to read and write about. Her perception is shaping her world and developing her individuality.

And when they finally turn their appetite towards reading and writing, they become as voracious as a kid coming home from school looking for an after school snack. To fuel this uptick in brainpower, we explore new and exciting snack options like Teddy Soft Bakes. The teddy bear shapes are there to oversee the homework proceedings and the light-textured treats with chocolate or vanilla filling are there to satisfy their hunger and keep them motivated. 

When it comes to kids, their exploration never ceases, it just may switch to a different outlet. Kids need to be challenged not only in schoolwork but through play. Play evolves into discovery and discovery turns into comprehension. Children will retain more if their learning pertains to their actual lives. So, here are some ways you can turn regular old snack time into an activity that they enjoy using wholesome Teddy Soft Bakes as your inspiration.

Use these and other prompts to do a fun activity with you child and help them discover their words.
  1. Teddy Soft Bakes writing prompt: This Teddy is.... sad? surprised? hungry? let your child write down what they think and then color the Teddy the way they want. Then talk about it. 
  2. Have your child look at the box and draw their version of Teddy
  3. Have your child tell you descriptive words about how Teddy feels, smells, looks, and tastes and write them down.
  4. Draw a picture that explains just how they got that delicious filling inside Teddy
  5. Looking at your Teddy Soft Bakes, try to make one using only shapes. Color it in!

I'm sharing Teddy Soft Bakes in my life as part of a sponsored series for 
Socialstars™  #myfirstTeddy #discoverTeddy

Friday, March 31, 2017

Play For a Better Tomorrow

This post was sponsored by Landscape Structures as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central. All opinions expressed in my post are my own

Play. It's one of the most important things you can do with your children.

I can close my eyes right now and here the way my shoes ran through the loose round gravel on the playground. The swish, swish, swish of feet tearing around the structures taking chase and the pain of kneeling it a crouched position during hide and seek trying not to give your position away with an audible yelp.

We all have memories of our favorite playgrounds as a child. For me, it was the metal dome structured jungle gym that seemed as large a the Thunderdome. I can still see the afternoon sun glinting off the long metal slide; the one that seemed impossibly tall and turned more than its share away from the resulting whoosh to the earth.

And then there was the metal train welded together and painted red, blue, and white so many times that you could see the layers of history right before you as it peeled away from the hands that rung around them for grip or climbed them with hands and feet that seemed to pause in the very air searching for contact with a pole.

And on those days when the sun rains down, there's no better place to be than at a playground listening to the giggles of upside down girls and boys chattering like monkeys while your little ones explore utilitarian structures that become castles, submarines, and spaceships alike.

Play on a playground teaches children persistence, leadership, competition, bravery, support, and empathy through play with each other. Play on a playground is one of the best things, and cheapest by far that you can do for the development of the whole child.

I will always marvel at my children's ability to meet someone on the playground and instantly become friends like they already know each other from long ago. This acceptance is achieved easily through play. But the greatest achievement is that we celebrate each other not only because of our similarities but also because of our differences.

What's important about play is learning that sometimes we will fall but it's how we rise back up that makes the difference in this life. I will always remember the early days of bringing my daughter to the park and how she would watch the older kids swinging from the monkey bars. I would hold her from below until she pushed my hands away. Eventually she wanted to try it on her own.

Time after time, she failed. So many times, she fell and cried and I consoled her. Many times I scooped her up and we walked away from the park in tears. I'd dry her eyes and tell her that next time she'd do it. Persistence and courage helped her get there. I'll never forget the first time she got all the way across on her own or how she spent the next two hours going back and forth until her hands were raw from swinging. Learning that sometimes the things you want to achieve don't always come easily is a lesson you can learn on the playground.

That's why it is important to find places to play that are for all children. Landscape Structures is partnered with University of Minnesota's Institute of Childhood Development to research how play helps develop the whole child by creating leaders, encouraging collaboration, and teaching about the values of persistence and problem solving. We shouldn't be hindered by perceptions of what we can and can't do and that's why Landscape Structures supports playgrounds that are designed for all ages and abilities. Finding them is easy if you use the Landscape Structures website to locate a playground near you.

So get out and play on a playground near you and help shape our world's children by getting them to learn through play. Your contribution to their growth means that we will have a better tomorrow if they play today.

Watch the video called For A Better Tomorrow We Play Today and tell me what your favorite part of the video was in the comments below. What was your favorite thing to play on as a kid?

Want to learn more about Landscape Structures? Find them on social media:

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

What To Do When You've Found The One

Photo courtesy of Micah Adams aka The Big Boned Biker

I get it, you just don’t know if this is a forever thing or a right now thing. This relationship has been pretty awesome so far. He’s always been there for you and when times got rough, he didn’t waver and stayed strong.

But there’s that sense of doubt in the back of your head that there might be something better out there for you so you start to weigh the pros and cons of the relationship.  There are others out there that might be able to give you the same thing, but do they have these same qualities you are looking for in someone of worth?

He’s consistent; you’ll give him that. There’s nothing that he does that makes you question his motives. When you need him, he’s always there. He’s accessible day or night at the push of a button, a text, or a quick message.

You have so much in common. He also likes it when you stay in and watch shows together on the couch or you take a “me day” to work from home. He never judges especially when it comes to the shows you watch and when.

The communication is excellent. When you need to talk, he’s always available to listen and helps you solve a problem only when you need it. With him, you just feel connected in every way.

Yet, you still have doubts about commitment. Are you in this for the long term? Could this be “the one”?

The moment we start to think that, many times reality sets in. There are hidden prices, faults start to show up, and the fear of committing long term suddenly becomes this cloud that hangs over your relationship. That's when you need to decide. Is this a right now thing or a forever thing?

For those that fear this commitment, you don't have to make that choice because now, there is the Verizon FiOS PrePaid option.

No credit check required to put a value on your union.There's no deposit required to put a ring on it. And there is no contract locking you in for a long term thing that you rushed into because there just when it comes to internet, TV, and phone and you've been hurt before.

Verizon is backed by the world’s best network and customer service support. Access to the FiOS app lets you control your DVR from your phone and check up on the status of your account details. Pretty soon, you may feel like posting on social media that your relationship status has changed.

Until then, Verizon FiOS will let you play the field until you decide that their toothbrush can take permanent residence in your apartment. Hey, Verizon FiOS understands that you need time to build something good together and they will wait for you. 

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post with Verizon FiOS in Philadelphia. All opinions expressed are my own. #FiOSPhilly

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

TV That Can Inspire Young Minds

I remember the first time my son took the stage. He was playing the part of a clown in the summer program theater camp at a local middle school and he didn't seem that happy about his role. In fact, he was the saddest clown I ever saw. Despite that, he delivered his lines perfectly and his timing along with his physical comedy really sold the audience; so much so that I heard guffaws from the crowd. 

From then on, he was hooked on theater. His creative side resides in performance. Even growing up, we would spend hours upon hours of playtime dressing into different costumes and coming up with characters. He especially loved it when Daddy became Lobster Man who could only be thwarted by a fake stick of butter and a play lemon that would bring me back to my senses.  

Most kids love to play pretend, but my son really showed his true creative side when he wrote and performed an original play which sometimes didn't make all that much sense to most of the adults in the room but we applauded loudly anyway when the final curtain fell. 

In this play his lines were hilarious. His gags were innovative. And with a little help from dad his costumes were on point. I could see a look on his face that said "I'm meant to do this" That's when our star was born. 

Since then, he's taken part in plays at our local YMCA, taken after school acting and singing workshops and even starred in a major role as Judas in Godspell Jr. I had a moment of clarity when I heard this amazing voice singing the opening song called "Prepare Thee (The Way of the Lord)". It was my son. I never heard him sing it before and I was floored. Then he sang the most amazing rendition of "All For the Best" and I couldn't help but smile. He was meant for this. 

I'd like to say that I got him here but I'm just not the scheduler. The reason he was there in the first place is due to his mom. Always on the lookout for the best experiences there are for young actors, she has consistently found him ways to express himself creatively through acting, music, and song. Parents, the arts are such an integral part to a child's development and can really help them flourish.

Shows like Julie’s Greenroom on Netflix are a prime example of what learning about creativity can mean to a child. In this show, Julie Andrews interacts with a cast of children, who are puppets, that learn everything it takes to be involved in the theater from lighting terms, to tech support, orchestra music and production. 

Kids will learn exactly what William Shakespeare has contributed to the English language and what kind of ghosts lurk around a ghost light on stage at night.Julie's Greenroom is the perfect way to show your kids that the performing arts are not only fun, but they can build character too. 

My favorite feature is to hear from current stars like Idina Menzel, Alec Baldwin, and Chris Colfer about what the performing arts meant to them as children.  With brief bios on their own lives and just how young they started acting and performing, it has become an inspiration to my own children who were amazed to see what Elsa really looks like in flesh and blood. 

My kids are learning all about what it takes to write, perform, and act out a performance with the help of this show. So, we took inspiration from shows that promote music, art, and theater like The Beat Bugs, Ask The Story Bots and Julie’s Greenroom to create our own characters of Kip, Peri, and Walter as sock puppets. The resulting process is a performance we like to call, The Kangaroo and the Slug, written, performed, and produced by my three talented kids. 

Want to get your kids involved in the performing arts? Use the prompts below from Common Sense Media to get started with your kids and get creative together. 

This post was written on behalf of Netflix as a part of their #StreamTeam program. All opinions expressed are solely my own. 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Ties That Bind

My ties have languished in the back of my closet, unceremoniously hanging from an all-purpose tie/belt rack waiting for their call up to the big leagues. Since I have been a stay at home dad, they’ve been on reserve for special occasions, only coming out for weddings, Sundays, and the rare funeral. 

Between the plaid flannels and multitudinous button downs, they may peek out from time to time, trying to catch a glimpse of light from the overhead 60 watt bulb fueled by a pull chain that clanks against the thin glass. That light sometimes makes them shine if not only for a moment when they might catch my eye. The shimmery silks and iridescent patterns of years gone by. You can tell a lot about a person just by their tie.  It can be a statement about who you are and what you stand for. It can make you stand out or recede into a crowd.

There’s just something about a tie that says professional. I used to watch my mom get my dad ready for a business trips. She would line his sport coats and suits from our second floor bannister like an army of businessmen without heads just waiting to be filled with a body.  In each and every instance, she’d pull out his ties and hold them in her fist like a brightly mismatched colored octopus and she would walk back and forth measuring up their might like a matchmaker trying to find a suitor.

I don’t know if it was my dad’s lack of sensibility around color or his inability to match patterns but my mom was good and explaining why each tie went with each set of pants, shirt, and shoe combination.  Maybe it comes from the years of observation or just that artist’s understanding of pattern and color, but I’m pretty good and knowing when a tie just belongs with a shirt.

But I understand, that not every man is that guy. You don't have your mom to tell you something doesn't match and you can't rely on your significant other all the time. Your ability to match a tie with a shirt will say a lot about who you are as a person and what you are capable of doing. It’s the reason why in an interview, your tie may be saying I’m confident and capable but your shirt and tie combination may say that you dress like you did it in the dark. Who wants to take a chance on someone who can’t get things done within his own wardrobe?

So if your mom isn’t around to tell you what to wear and you really have no idea what you are doing when you wonder if a striped shirt can go with a polka-dot tie, good thing there is a guide to help you on your journey.

How To Match Shirt And Ties

How To Match Shirt And Ties at

This is a sponsored post done in collaboration with Jacamo. I was compensated for this post and if you don't know how to match ties, you should use our advice. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Making After School Snacks Bearable Again

“There’s nothing to eat!” my kids will wail as they stand before a fully stocked pantry of after-school snacks. They could be standing in front of a wall of snacks and still say this the very same way we, as adults will look at our closet and see the same thing with our clothes. Sometimes, you just get tired of the same old thing.

What about this? I’ll point to my go-to snack, hoping they forget about the ones they piled into their lunchboxes just the night before.

“No. I don’t want that, I don’t like it.” she will say, turning up her nose and crossing her arms. I knew that would happen because they came back from school untouched. I thought I could sneak one by her and present it as something new. It was worth a shot.

“Okay, how about this?” I point to my secondary go-to snack, the ones they’ve like since they were just babies getting used to solid foods.

“I’m TIRED of those, isn’t there anything new that’s good?” she sighs and sometimes falls to the floor, frustrated by my "narrow" selections. Apparently my snack game is weak and I need to bring them something new and exciting that they will look forward to at school and after school.

I try in vain to convince them that they should take my offering knowing all the while that I wouldn't eat it either if I were them. And so, the dance begins to drag on, where I suggest a snack that I thought they would love forever only to find that it tragically has fallen out of favor.

I may have had previously stood before endless possibilities in the grocery store trying to find something that I know they will eat only to get it home and find out that they’ve changed their minds about how they feel about it. If you see my scratching my head at the grocery store taking things down and then talking myself out of it after I read the labels, this is the reason why.

“You USED to love this,” I’d say. You DO love this, and you’re going to eat it. “ Yes. That usually goes over very well. The truth is, they are tired of the same old thing and that’s when parents need to give them a snack that says fun and nutritious.

This is the moment that most parents relent. When asked if for the twentieth time they can have the sugary snack you normally keep for a rainy day. Suddenly, those popsicles in the freezer become fair game even though you know they aren’t good for them but you just are tired of the struggle.

Struggle no more parents. I was that guy until I found Teddy Soft Bakes. Teddy Soft Bakes are wholesome snack that don’t contain all the artificial junk that other after-school snacks may have. They are light-textured cakes in the shape of a Teddy Bear full of chocolate or vanilla filled centers.

Just the presentation of the box had peaked the interest of my children. There was a box for the chocolate lover and the vanilla lover too. And they recognized that fun shaped figure that has spent his time in their lunchboxes for years. Everyone loves teddy bears right? Especially when they are chocolate and vanilla filled!

Suddenly, I was the culinary hero making snacks great again one day at a time.When my kids started taking them in their lunches, kids in her class were assessing their own for possible trade opportunities.. These Teddy Soft Bakes have their attention. Now, I just need to make sure I stock up and keep a steady supply on hand to ensure that snack time continues to be more bearable for me and them.

FTC Disclosure : I’m sharing Teddy Soft Bakes in my life as part of a sponsored series for Socialstars™ #discoverTeddy #myfirstTeddy

Monday, March 6, 2017

Blazing New Trails

**Given the difficult nature of capturing Navdy’s projected display on film, this picture is not fully representative of how Navdy’s display actually appears during use.

My alarm went off much sooner than I expected and I fumbled in the dark reaching out for the electronic glow that mocked by feeble attempts to grasp it. My fingers groped across my nightstand until my fingertips made contact with the watch band. I felt the wood of the nightstand, air, then the lamp.. I had it for a minute but couldn't quite grasp the motor skills required to turn it off.  I couldn't navigate in the dark.

After what seemed like minutes but was probably only seconds those seemingly elongated moments seemed to stretch out. It seems to stretch when you alarm goes off and your significant other's does not. I managed to find the button to end the siren's song ushering me into early morning darkness.

Methodically, I swung my legs over the side of the bed like an old man getting into a boat from a high dock and stood up listening to more cracks and groans than I expected, The warm sheets left me like an old snakeskin ready for it to become new. It was time to wake up and seize the day. Today was the day that I would blaze a new trail. Today, I would be returning to work for the first time in almost ten years.

It was an adjustment for sure, waking up first, getting the coffee first, and saying goodbye first. I suddenly experienced the goodbye hugs my wife would get everyday as she rushed out the door to work instead of the dismissive jump from the minivan as I waited for the kisses on my cheek that never came.

I was in new territory and unfamiliar with how I should be feeling. There was a sense of excitement and of dread. I drank my morning coffee hoping the familiar would calm my nerves. Experiencing something unknown is the sort of scary that slowly creeps up on you. It's that same sensation you get when you travel to another place you've never been to before but you're not really sure how to get there.

In times of uncertainty, we like to know just how our path is laid out. We want assurance that our way is clear and safe and that no matter how we get there, it's done safely. I needed to focus on the road ahead of me as a blazed the new trail. And so, as I prepared to make the drive to start something new, I used the one tool that consistently gets me where I want to go, a navigation system.

The Navdy isn't your everyday navigation system though. Navdy enables simple, gesture-based access to the phone functions drivers need most and projects everything to appear directly in their line of sight on the road ahead. No more looking down at your phone when a call comes in on your way to work. Just swiping your hand left or right lets Navdy know if you are accepting or rejecting the call. Put it through, and you will answer your phone right through the Navdy.

When we bought our minivan we were dead set against the extra money it would cost to put in a navigation system in 2011. Now, you can't find a car that doesn't have one. But with Navdy, it's different because it is plugged directly into your own car. You control Navdy through the free app on Google Play and Apple App Store. When you get into your car, Navdy automatically connects to your phone through Bluetooth.

Navdy projects things like speed, navigation maps, make an receive calls, and read your texts by setting up Glances. It can even play the songs you have on your phone which you control with the use of a click-wheel that you mount on your steering wheel. And when it is time to shut it down, the Navdy unit detaches magnetically to the base for storage out of sight.

The display showed up well in the dark as I headed to school and I followed Navdy's directions right to my own parking spot. Unfamiliar with the road, I kept a close watch on the display speedometer which now only showed me my speed, but based on the location, what the speed limit was on that road. That certainly helped when I was so focused on getting there that I didn't see the police car watching for speeders until I passed it.  It helped me maintain the proper speed limit even when I didn't see a sign or know what the speed limit was all my GPS location.

The first day I used it, I was headed home and events that were in my Google calendar showed up as reminders as well as an option to select to navigate to that location. All I had to do was select an address and Navdy pulled it up on my screen. But by far the best feature is that the Navdy will read the texts that are sent to you, giving you the option to respond, call, ignore the message, or let people know that you are driving and you're not able to respond by using the click wheel mounted on the steering wheel. Recently, Navdy inventors dropped the retail price to$499 or $28/month for 18 months at 0% financing, a small price to pay for the safety of everyone you care about in your cars.

The Navdy, like me, is a trail blazer. It makes driving safer by keeping our eyes on the road where they belong and not down at our phones.  I for one am excited about where Navdy is going to take me and I know that getting there will be half the fun.

Disclaimer : This post is sponsored by Navdy and I was provided compensation for this post. Look for more posts this year about the adventures my family and I have with Navdy. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

7 Days of Shows

Okay, I'll admit it, I LOVE gory and scary shows. They are the kind of shows that send my wife running upstairs to our room. They are the shows that would keep most people up at night unable to share the images from their heads. But, in all of these cases, I love how real and imaginative all of these shows are. Sure they have blood and guts in them, many are hard to watch, but the drama still gets me every time. Shows that leave you guessing and begging for more are the ones that will endure.

Here is a list of shows you should be streaming on your Verizon FiOS. There's one for every day of the week because, you don't have anything better to do than to watch awesome TV shows right?

1. Stranger Things - If you've been under a rock or in a coma recently, run, don't walk to the TV or your tablet and watch this show. It's not just the 80's nostalgia that has us excited, but the characters and story that unfolds right in front of us that captured our attention.

2. Black Mirror - Ever wonder if all the advancements in technology are helping or hurting us in the long run? Black Mirror explores these subjects in depth in an all too real series that may have you seeing yourself in the screen.

3. Santa Clarita Diet - Drew Barrymore and her husband are realtors that have life figured out. That is until Drew's character becomes a flesh eating zombie. Not since Dexter has a show this gory and gross entertained me so much.

4.  Mozart In The Jungle - Sex, drugs, and classical music. What could be better? Mozart in the Jungle on Amazon is a spectacular series with characters of a symphony orchestra trying to reinvent itself in NYC. What could go wrong?

5. The Walking Dead - I know. That first episode was so hard to watch. But, it gets better and you know that eventually, when things go south, that Rick and the survivors find a way to get their retribution. Stay tuned. 

6. A Series Of Unfortunate Events - If there were ever a series where you rooted for the protagonists, this is it. The Beaudelaire Children have just about everything happen to them that would keep children crying "Woe is me." but they are a resourceful and ingenious bunch of children and that's why you'll want to watch. Also, because Neil Patrick Harris is Count Olaf.

7. Veep - Okay, well this show is not gory but given the sad state of affairs in our government these days, we need a little laughter. From the bumbling of press conferences to dealing with the press, this show may seem a little more real to you now. But, we are all going to need some laughter to get through the next four years.

This post was written on behalf of Verizon FiOS who provides me with their impeccable service. All opinions expressed are my own. #FiOSPhilly #ad 

A Celebration of Cereal

I used to end up buried in a box of cereal; my arm digging down to the very depths of the cardboard box in search for the elusive prize at the bottom. As it turns out, the pieces I passed up with each finger were the real prizes.  Take a stroll down the cereal aisle and you’ll be wooed by bright colors and various textures, enlarged enough to make our stomachs pang with delight. 

Cereal was and will always be a staple in our house.  The night before a school day, our kitchen table is a staging area. The bowls and spoons are set out the night before, each it it’s place waiting for hungry kids to bound down the stairs and tear into cereal boxes of Lucky Charms, Cocoa Puffs, and even Corn Chex. Yes, for real. My middle daughter can’t get enough of those crunchy squares.  No matter what their choice, the boxes stand at attention, ready to serve.

There just isn’t time in the morning to get much done and getting everything ready the night before always works out for the best when it comes to getting children to school and myself on time.

My morning routine is pretty standard. I get up early, take a shower, and get dressed for work.  The last thing I want in the morning is to start my day with a complicated decision. Making the decision the night before means that I not only have something to look forward to but I have one less decision to make that day.

I’m teaching kids again so that means I need to be on top of my game when it comes to a nutritious breakfast I need something that is fast and easy but also worth the limited time I have; for my family, and me that choice is easy. It is always cereal.

This #NationalCerealDay, I’ll be celebrating with my family with cereals from General Mills.  Every kid has a different favorite as is indicated by the rainbow of boxes on our kitchen table at the ready.

Cereal has always been there for us through the different stages in our lives as well as our children.  They grew up eating Cheerios to master eye-hand coordination and my kids get stressed out if there aren’t at least eight different varieties to choose from in our pantry.

My kids know that they just need to make sure that dad gets his Golden Grahams. There’s just something about them that I can’t resist.  It’s been my go-to cereal ever since college, filling in for meals I knew I wouldn’t enjoy or didn’t have time for on the run.

Cereal as we know it has changed for the better since then. General Mills has dedicated themselves to removing the ingredients that our bodies don’t need, eliminating the use of high fructose corn syrup and removing artificial flavors and colors that our bodies don’t need, making sure the nutrients and whole grains we do need are there when we need them.

When the day starts to wind down, cereal is also a good snack. My kids don’t always like getting their protein from dinner so an after-school snack of cereal with milk can provide that missing component from their day.

And when the day is over and the kids are in bed, sometimes my wife and I gather together for cereal for two. The kids aren’t there to complain about us taking their favorites and we reward ourselves for a job well done. That is, until the alarm clock goes off and we do it all over again.  

Do you have fond memories of cereal?  For National Cereal Day this March 7th, General Mills and I would love to help one family celebrate their favorites by telling us about your favorite cereals. 

Which Big G cereal do you covet? Is there one you hide from the kids and won’t share?  Leave a comment below with your favorite General Mills Big G cereal and you could win a #NationalCerealDay prize pack like the one pictured below.  

*Contest open to adults age 18 and over. US Residents only. One winner will be chosen at random from entries. Must provide a valid email address to claim your prize. Winners have 24 hours to respond to prize rewarding email and provide an address and phone number for delivery.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post is sponsored by General Mills Cereal. I was provided with compensation and the items shown above from General Mills Big G Cereals in celebration of #NationalCerealDay. All opinions expressed are my own. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

I Cheated On My Wife (With Netflix)

I tried to do it on the sly but she caught me. The temptation was just too great. The seductive lure was just too much. I thought that I would have the willpower to resist. I thought I could fake my way if confronted. I stood in front of the mirror practicing surprised faces just to seem convincing. But they always know when you're lying.

I'm coming clean right here and now because I feel so guilty. She went away for business and I couldn't resist. It just sort of, happened.

We've all been there right? You're home alone and the kids are asleep. Your husband is snoring away for the thirtieth consecutive day and you need something to keep you occupied while he saws logs. After trying to read a book by cellphone light and Facebook become boring, it's time for a little more action. So you inevitably stray because let's face it, he's never going to know.

I've done it. You've done it. It's time for us to all come clean. We all have watched an episode of our favorite show without our significant other.

In fact, new data reveals 46% of streaming couples around the world are watching ahead of their partners and 60% of them said that they would cheat more if they knew they could get away with it. So let's just clear the air here. Have you ever cheated while your significant other was sleeping? Have you hid in the bathroom and feigned stomach issues so you could squeeze in another twenty minutes unperturbed?

Chances are if you have kids, you've had to bribe them not to let Daddy know they saw you watching The OA without him.  Hey, I get it. No judgement from me. I get the guilty feeling though because if you started to think about all the things you have streamed through together, it's hard to imagine someone streaming without you.

Honestly, waiting until they come back from a business trip not knowing if they are streaming from the hotel room while they are away or catching something on mobile while on a long work lunch. It's anyone's guess just how far they've gone on their own.

Being the streamee instead of the streamer can be rough. It's that feeling that you get when someone doesn't hold the door open for you on the elevator and then watches you reach out for the door knowing you can't make it but making no attempt to help. Then you have to find the time on your own to catch up and streaming it alone just doesn't feel the same.

Here are some tips from Netflix on how to be a better cheater and not get caught. Oh, I didn't learn my lesson, I'm still going to do it because I can. What show do you like to cheat on?  Leave your confession below. I promise I won't tell if you don't.

  • Among those in a relationship who would stream cheat, the highest percentage said they would be likely do so at home by themselves on the main TV (66%). Scandalously, 21% would watch in bed while their significant other was asleep and 5% said they would cheat in the bathroom.
  • Perhaps to get out of sleeping on the couch, results showed that many would take some kind of action to either hide or face the fact that they watched a TV program via streaming before their significant other, of whom…
  • 41% would not spoil scenes before they happened. 14% would feel so guilty that they would have to confess.  12% would re-watch and “fake it” with emotion. If there’s one thing that can lead to more trouble, it’s “faking it.”
  • A little more reckless with their viewing habits, younger couples (26% ages 18-34) were more likely to have “cheated5” than older couples (10% ages 55+).
  • And while it can be said that men get a bad rap for “cheating,” the study showed incriminating evidence, with over three quarters (77%) of men 18-34 in a relationship saying they would “cheat” – a significantly higher percentage than among attached women 18-34 (57%). Sorry guys, we’re just sharing the numbers.

Disclaimer : This post was brought to you by DadNCharge on behalf of the Netflix #StreamTeam. All opinions are my own. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Dropping the Ball Directly Onto Dads

I've read lots of books lately about what it means to be a man or woman in this world raising a child. Everyone is an expert but no one really knows what they are doing. There is no LEGO manual for making every day awesome because no two families, let alone people are the same.

Finding balance between work and family life is constantly in flux for all of us no matter what your work and home situation may be. In the latest book which tells you everything you are doing is wrong, Tiffany Dufu has dropped the ball right onto dads. In her book, Drop the Ball she has chosen to perpetuate the lazy dad stereotypes of old. 

I mean, I'm sure Dufu meant well. She meant to share her personal experience backed by some semblance of research on how other moms feel about their perceived lazy husbands. But be warned, these, "experts" scream to you from bookshelves that the reason your husband doesn't clean the toilet taint (you know that area between the bowl and the tank) is because men don't want to share the worry and work that accompanies managing a home.

Wrong. We both worry though we probably worry about different things at different times. Let's be honest though, you can't be a parent and not worry about something.  Our mental health issues are on the rise on both sides of the coin. Men's mental health issues are steadily increasing with many men's worries escalating towards suicide which they believe is the only way out. Read up on Josh Levs' book All In where he conducted interviews with countless men over the ways they and their partners teamed up together to find a solution for their families. He will shed light on these sources who claim that women are doing most of the heavy lifting.

Teamwork is and always will be the key to any relationship and it is where most success resides for individuals and companies. People didn't get where they are today without influence from other people, period. Sometimes that meant that they took the lead and other times they were a support person.

The same holds true for relationships. Think of examples where teamwork works the best; on sports teams where their motto is "I don't want to win it for me, but the person next to me." It happens in businesses where people play specific roles that ebb and flow. Oftentimes a project manager takes on a role because they are the best at it while their supporting players may not be as strong. Nothing gets done in America without teamwork. But keeping score and holding that over your team will never make you a star.

What isn't productive is the claim that one gender works harder than the other at something. Claims that men work harder than women who work at home or claims that women work harder than men because they don't do as much housework doesn't bring us closer together, it divides us even more.

Authors like Dufu want to show one side only. They know extreme examples sell books. They want to prove that one sex is superior to the other based on quantifiable reasons. Why does there have to be this giant scale where we keep score?

I'm not in competition with my wife for who can do more. We don't keep a tally of all the things we accomplished that day like some maniacal tail-gunner taking out enemy planes. We don't compare notes at the end of the day over who did more like scars on a small fishing boat hunting down a shark.

We divide and conquer, together. I'm not good at the finances and she hasn't changed the cat litter since her first pregnancy. It works because we do the things that we are good at. In her case it's organizing and numbers and mine is just dealing with crap.

Dufu makes a claim that "When men change a diaper, they feel like they’re helping us out; when we change a diaper, we feel like we’re just doing our job.” If this is you, I'm sorry if you've been around men that don't see that caring for your children is an equal partnership.

The men that I know don't think of changing diapers as helping out their wives. We had children TOGETHER. We take care of them TOGETHER. We will always raise them TOGETHER. The very definition of a partnership is doing something together. 

If I were babysitting a neighbor's kid, that is helping out. If I were changing the diaper of my nephew, I might be helping out. If I am picking up someone's son to bring him home in addition to my own, that is helping out.  Being a parent and managing the household is not a job, it's a responsibility you both enter and navigate together.

I ran into this so often as a stay at home dad of nine years who was praised for doing the everyday tasks any parent would do with their children. People would say I was a good dad because I took my kids to the grocery store alone or because I could make an afternoon recital that my wife couldn't because she was working. These stereotypes make it hard to gain ground when it comes to equality on either side. 

I feel this way every time someone calls me Mr. Mom or asks me if I am babysitting. Stop referring to me as a character from a movie made in 1983. I'm a dad caring for my children while my wife works to support our family. The care and worry won't change once I am back in the workforce, it will just intensify since I won't be with them during the day anymore.

I recently started teaching again and now that I have a job, I'm still caring for the children. That part never changes no matter whether you are working or staying at home. I'm still carting the kids to after school activities and making dinner in the evening. Now that our family dynamic is changing again, we are figuring it out all over again.

Books like Drop the Ball reinforce these negative stereotypes about dads who are unwilling to be an active part of the household beyond just raising the children.  Society may keep those stereotypes alive but it's our job to disprove them, not reinforce them. Instead of figuring out who is doing more, let's focus on how doing it together looks like instead.